Tycoon linked to Saddam arrested for hotel fraud

HE WAS a tycoon with a list of worthy things to conserve, including the last deep coal mine in the North of England and Dundee Football Club in the Scottish Premier League. But yesterday, the strange world of Giovanni Di Stefano came crashing to earth as he was arrested in Rome.

The detention by Italian police was not for his commercial dealings with an assortment of dictators and war criminals such as presidents Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic and the latter's psychopathic henchman, Arkan. Instead, Mr Di Stefano ended up behind bars because he was wanted for questioning by Suffolk police.

The Anglo-Italian businessman might wonder at the hubris of it all. Had it not been for the publicity generated by his plan to buy Dundee for pounds 2.4m and Ellington Colliery in Northumberland for pounds 5m, it is unlikely that a warrant for his arrest, issued in 1991 in connection with an alleged deception involving a string of hotels, would have been acted on. But seeing his name in headlines brought back memories for some detectives in East Anglia.

Mr Di Stefano, ensconsed in Belgrade, appeared to have been out of the reach of police in Britain. But then it was reported that he had been holding talks with the National Union of Mineworkers and had made approaches to the Coal Authority with plans to export coal to Yugoslavia and African countries.

Mr Di Stefano was also negotiating with the Marr brothers, who own Dundee Football Club, offering pounds 2.4m for a share of it. He was eventually turned down.

Then police heard he was travelling in Western Europe, and thus coming within the scope of a British warrant. He now faces possible extradition over allegations of fraudulent trading involving five hotels in the Midlands and a company called Sandhurst Assets in 1991.

Mr Di Stefano claims to be long-interested in politics - he said he had donated pounds 30,000 to the Conservative Party. Displaying all the trappings of affluence, he travelled the world to indulge his interest in politics. He has spoken of meeting Presidnet Saddam in Baghdad, and is said to have built up commercial links with the Iraqi leader's son Uday.

He says he is the general sales agent for Iraqi Airways in Yugoslavia. And it was to the former Yugoslavia that he turned in 1991; he was given Serbian citizenship on the personal authorisation of President Milosevic.

Mr Di Stefano subsequently began to describe himself as the spokesman for Arkan, and wrote to Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, during the Kosovo crisis, warning that any attempt to apprehend Arkan, who is wanted for war crimes, would end in a bloodbath.

But yesterday it seemed Mr Di Stefano might have run out of friends in Serbia. Just before his arrest, Nebojsa Smiljanic, claiming to be a spokesman for Arkan, said: "We have nothing to do with him any more."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor